The elections to certify the Lecturers Employees Organization as the union to represent non-tenure-track University faculty will be running for the two-week period of April 10 to April 28. The union drive, if successful, could improve working conditions for lecturers, bringing with it an improved quality of education for University students.

The national union sponsoring the drive is the American Federation of Teachers, which is also the national with which the Graduate Employees Organization is affiliated. The GEO walk out last year highlights the necessity of a unionized workforce. The walkout led to improvements in the contract the administration offered to graduate student instructors in the collective bargaining process. At other campuses nationwide, where similar drives have been organized, such as New York University and the University of California system, union representation played a similar role in improving working conditions for lecturers.

Working conditions for non-tenure-track faculty, for the most part adjunct lecturers, are usually less than optimal. Many adjunct professors teach only one class, and as a result make insufficient income by working just one job. Many end up taking as many as two or three other teaching jobs at nearby campuses just to make enough to get by. A union contract resulting in improved pay and working conditions will mean that students can get more out of their instructors. As many lecturers do not currently have their own offices, interaction between students and teachers is often limited.

During the past three years, the percentage of full-time faculty has decreased at the University while the percentage of lecturers has increased. Such a situation means that the quality of education at the University will grow to be more and more dependent on lecturers. In the absence of workers organizing to preserve and enforce quality working conditions for lecturers, the quality of education for undergraduate students will deteriorate. If lecturers and other non-tenure-track faculty continue to be in situations where they must worry constantly about their finances, spend many hours each week traveling from one workplace to the other and then home again, the amount of time and quality of thought they are able to put into curriculum development and lesson plans is adversely affected. Further, there can be no doubting that teachers will be more enthusiastic and energetic about teaching when such concerns are not weighing down their thoughts.

All eligible non-tenure-track faculty should vote for LEO representation. University students should support the union drive and help LEO make clear to the administration that lecturers are an essential part of the University’s learning environment.

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